College Kids Who Sing Well Pray Twice

Take that guitar to school — music can deepen your faith

What does a college band have to do with faith? More than some may think.

The college years offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for self-discovery. But finding ways to actively do that can be a challenge. In college, students gain perspective by developing something outside of their comfort zone: faith. There are countless ways to accomplish this — and singing is one of them.

It was St. Augustine who said, “He who sings, prays twice,” and the relationship between music and faith goes back thousands of years.

“Music moves the soul to a different beat, and when that beat unites friends, a beautiful bond is formed.”

“The goal of the monastic chanting of the Psalms, according to the Rule of St. Benedict, is ‘that our mind might be in harmony with our voice’ as we praise the Lord,” said Fr. Thomas Esposito, a monk of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, in Texas. “The rhythm and pitch of music is a physical reality that has spiritual consequences: We often hear how music elevates the soul and stirs up desires in our heart.”

“As far as activities go for college students to deepen and share their faith, meditations with praise and worship music are very nourishing to many people,” said Fr. Thomas. “Those who prefer a different style of music may come to love Gregorian chant, even if only as soothing background music while studying.”

Music can be a means of personal expression — but it also has the ability to bring people together.

Related: Keeping the Faith in College

“It’s perfectly natural that Catholics would turn to music to describe their love for God and share that faithful love with others,” he said.

Civil Wars 2.0 after a performance (photo courtesy of Laura Prejean).

Laura Prejean, a 2015 graduate of the University of Dallas, and Evan Neville, UD 2016, formed a band in college with three other members. They experienced the benefits of playing an instrument in deepening their faith — which was not the initial intention.

Prejean double-majored in politics and theology, and deferred her studies of canon law at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., until the fall of 2017. Neville majored in history and currently works as an analyst for a consulting firm near Boston. Both Prejean and Neville enjoy singing and playing guitar.

Neville began his musical influence at UD by joining the campus praise and worship group.

Related: Soft Strains of Heavenly Music

“I don’t think playing guitar is necessarily the thing that helped me deepen my faith in a direct way,” Neville told LifeZette. “Instead, it helped me in an indirect way by introducing me to those people I could talk to and practice my faith with.”

Although playing an instrument was not his “personal favorite” form of prayer, Neville acknowledged how important this type of worship is for others, which still influenced his own growth in his faith.

“Being able to serve with my talents and contribute to the spiritual life of the school was a major reason I played music at UD,” said Neville.

Faith was an added benefit of a college band.

Prejean had a similar perspective. Although she enjoyed playing an instrument, she said it was debatable as to whether she enjoyed the combined instruments and voices — or the conversations sparked by her fellow musicians.

“We were joined not specifically by a box drum or guitar strings, but by a shared love that eventually reached to more than music, but to each other,” said Prejean. “Gradually, I could see the genuine care we all had for each other — for one another’s musical abilities, yes, but also each other’s academic success, families, friends, and faith.”

So faith was an added benefit.

Neville said, “[Forming the band] helped put me in touch with people who shared the same faith and helped us form better friendships with each other, so eventually we’d talk about our faith.”

Prejean found that, in those late-night practices, she encountered the beauty, truth, and goodness discussed in her philosophy classes.

“The beauty was in that perfect harmony, yes, but it was in the laughter as we were terribly out of pitch,” Prejean said. “I found the beauty in the music — but primarily, I found it in the musicians, in the shared experience of creating something together.”

Related: He Sang Gospel from His Car Seat

Neville and Prejean believed it was not solely the music that led to their faith-filled discussions, but the community of creating that music.

“There’s nothing like a small gathering with a single guitar and an exuberant singing of songs, whether religious or secular,” Fr. Thomas said. “Music simply moves the soul to a different beat, and when that beat unites friends, a beautiful bond is formed.”

So — take that instrument to college. It may help strengthen your faith before you know it.